Arriving in Quito
We arrived in Quito, Ecuador to pick up our plane tickets for a future trip to Europe. KLM offers a senior discount of 50% to travelers 65 and over. The catch is you have to be a resident of Ecuador and pay for the tickets, in person, in the KLM office in either Quito or Guayaquil. We decided to stay a couple of days and enjoy our task since we had not been to Quito for some time. The savings on the plane ticket more than paid for our time in Quito.
The 7:30 AM Latam flight from Cuenca got us to Quito fairly early in the morning and cost us 24,000 points. This works out to be about a penny/point. Not the best redemption rate in the world, but not terrible, either. We did not have to go through customs in Quito, which seemed a little strange, and, since we packed everything in our carry on luggage, we breezed through the airport quickly. The taxi from the airport ($30, as I recall) got us into town and dropped us off at the hotel in about 45 minutes.
In the past, we have stayed at the J. W. Marriott and have thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent there. This time we decided to change things up a little, both for the variety and to save a little money, and stay at the Hotel Sebastian in the La Mariscal area. The Sebastian hotel is also only a few blocks from the KLM office.
The Hotel Sebastian
The taxi dropped us off at the hotel at about 10:00 AM. The suite we had reserved was not yet ready, but they did have a suite with two queen beds available so we took that. The woman behind the desk was friendly and professional (and spoke English also) as were all the staff we dealt with at the hotel.
The hotel had a definite alpine vibe and would have looked right at home in the Alps. This impression started with the external appearance. The intricate woodwork on the balconies was reminiscent of a European ski lodge. The saddle style roof with wood beams under the eaves reinforced this impression,
The abundance of woodwork continued inside in the hotel lobby. Crossed beams supported the ceiling and paneling by the front desk gave an impression of warmth and solidity. The wooden doors and door frames enhanced this effect. Also, the bar had a rich wood paneling and the restaurant area had exposed beams. Cozy and welcoming. And last, but not least, were the wood paneling and mirrors in the elevators. I loved it.
While the exterior of the building and the public spaces seemed a bit like a Swiss chalet in the heart of the Andes, our room, however, had a very different feel. Thick walls and rounded doorways made it seem we were guests in an old country side hacienda.
We entered the room through a small anti-room with a desk and small office set up where one could catch up on correspondence. This struck me as quaint and charming. It seemed a throwback to the days when one might, after a day of touring (a quaint word in itself) and write a letter or a postcard to folks back home. Now, of course, everyone just dashes off an email or a message on their phone or posts something on social media. (Or maybe even starts a travel blog!)
The main part of the room was spacious and rather plain. There was a small area at the edge of the main area, and set apart by a column, with a small sitting area with a table and chairs. This space is a nice area for enjoying a glass of wine or perhaps an in-room meal. Next to the sitting area was a door to the balcony, which wrapped around the two sides of the building and provided a decent view of the neighborhood. It was too narrow to accommodate chairs.
Tickets and Shopping
We dropped off our bags and headed to the KLM office to get our tickets. The cab ride to the office was $2. We were able to get our tickets after a short wait. The KLM staff checked our Ecuadoran cedulas (national I.D. cards), our U. S. passports, processed our credit card and we were on our way.
We decided to walk back from the KLM office since it was not far from the hotel and the road back was down hill. On the way, we went by the Olga Fisch Folklore Gallery and decided to stop in. The gallery specializes in decorative items, jewelry, clothing and knick knacks produced in a traditional style by local artists. Browsing was fun and the entire experience was enhanced by the cheerful, upbeat attendant who seemed to enjoy showing the various items as much as we enjoyed looking at them. M. was able to find a new pair of earrings to add to her collection and an interesting cat picture.
Friday morning we had an opportunity to try the hotel’s breakfast buffet and found it to be more than adequate. There were several types of bread (including a sinfully good petit pan au chocolat) and a selection of fresh fruit. It was also possible to have an omelet made to order. I enjoyed a cheese omelet with tomato while M. enjoyed a continental breakfast of cold cuts, cheese, bread and fruit. Refills for coffee and tea were a self-serve affair. The hotel had thoughtfully left a small pitcher of warmed milk for people who might want cafe con leche. During breakfast we heard Spanish (of course), English, French and German spoken, attesting to the international nature of the clientele.
Exploring the La Mariscal Area of Quito
After breakfast we decided to walk around and explore the neighborhood. The area immediately around the hotel was an upscale residential area with one or two shady, tree-lined streets. The neighborhood began to decline after a few blocks and we ran into a number of hostels as well as associated bars and cafes that appear to cater to the backpacker crowd. There was a tattoo parlor as well, as I recall and, at one point a couple of fellows sitting on the sidewalk apparently nodding off.
Back at the hotel, the concierge directed us to a nearby ethnographic art museum (Museo Mindalae) that was within easy walking distance. We enjoyed the museum’s small collection, but it is nowhere near as good or as extensive as the National Museum. There was no charge to tour the Museo Mindalae.
We very much enjoyed our stay at the Sebastian Hotel. I especially liked the mix of Swiss chalet/Spanish hacienda styles that gave an eclectic and comfortable feel. The entire hotel was well maintained, clean and comfortable.
There was, thoughtfully, a portable space heater in the room which helped take the chill off. The Hotel Sebastian, like many buildings in Ecuador, does not have a central heating and cooling system and nights in the mountains can be cool.
Hotel Sebastian is conveniently located a short cab ride away from the La Floresta area, which has several good restaurants. It is also close to Zazu, our favorite restaurant in Quito but more about that later.
The area immediately around the hotel was upscale residential and seemed safe. We walked about several times during the day and felt no anxiety or sense of danger. Wandering around at night might be a different story and I would be hesitant to stray to far from the hotel unless I was sure where I was going.
The area several blocks away from the hotel has a reputation for being loud and rowdy at night, but we were not bothered by noise during our stay. Our room was on the fourth floor in the front of the hotel and we heard an occasional motorcycle or truck driving by, but this was not bothersome.
A couple of minor complaints: There was no coffee maker in the room. We had to leave quite early on Saturday to catch our flight back to Cuenca and it would have been nice to have coffee in the room before leaving. Also, people traveling with more clothes than we had might find the closets a bit small.
Overall, I liked the retro vibe, which gave the whole place a homey feel. The room was clean and comfortable, the staff were friendly and helpful (and spoke English). Furthermore, the hotel was well located. The Hotel Sebastian gave good value for the money and I look forward to staying there again in the future.
We stayed over Thursday and Friday nights in mid-March, 2017. Our total cost for two nights was $213 (USD), which included breakfast and all taxes.